China-Pakistan cooperation on solar technology
Pakistan is unable to overcome the energy crisis despite a lot of efforts at the government and private sector level for generating hydel and thermal power. The shortage of energy has become a big barrier to the development of industry in the country. The government, on the other hand, is forced to increase energy tariff due to the high cost of energy production. In this scenario, we should opt for the solar energy option, for which the environment is very conducive in Pakistan. In this regard, we are lucky to have a powerful friend like China, who is our neighbour too. China is rich in technology, also relating to solar energy production. The ecology of Pakistan is highly favourable for solar technology.
The latitude of Pakistan is between 620 and 750 east while its longitude falls under the range of 240 and 370 north. Being in the sunny belt, it has been found to have tremendous solar energy potentials standing at 2.9 TW. The geography of the country is such that sunlight is evenly and plentifully distributed throughout the country. Average irradiation received by flat surface in Pakistan has been estimated to be 200 to 250 watts per meter square, which is sufficient to make the country self-dependent. Sun shines in the country for almost 300 days annually. The topography of the country allows it to harness 1.9 MJ and 2.2MJ solar energy.
Pakistan has some of the highest values of insolation in the world with eight to nine hours of sunshine per day, ideal climatic conditions for solar power generation. However, the country has been slow to adopt the technology.
The country has solar plants in Pakistani Kashmir, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. Initiatives are under development by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Chinese companies, and Pakistani private sector energy companies. The country aims to build the world's largest solar power park, the Quaid-e-Azam Solar Power Park (QASP) in the Cholistan Desert, Punjab, by 2017 with a 1 GW capacity. A plant of this size would be enough to power around 320,000 homes.
Pakistan is an energy deficit country with a shortfall of several thousand megawatts. In 2008, the shortfall of the country stood at 4500 megawatt. There are many remote areas throughout the country which are still not connected to the National Electricity grid. This is mainly due to the exponentially increasing population of the country, the unstable economy and government and poor infrastructure. Another key factor is the constantly fluctuating oil prices which make oil import for electricity generation more expensive. However, Pakistan has got abundant solar energy potential which can be harnessed in multiple ways to generate electricity for the country.
China has shown its keen interest to invest in multiple solar energy projects in Pakistan.
The fundamentals of China’s renewable energy sector are relevant to Pakistan in light of the current global discourse on Sustainable and Low Carbon Development. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China has the potential to be a catalyst for growth in the renewable energy sector. The transfer of knowledge and know-how can be achieved from this cooperation with China in the renewable energy domain, provided the state has adequate policies facilitating the flow of knowledge to the local industry.
In the energy sector, there has been a rapid increase in foreign investment in energy projects, from 2012 onwards. This has been, in part, due to the interest of the Chinese firms in Pakistan and the CPEC agreement’s early harvest projects. China’s increased contribution in Pakistan’s FDI, since 2010, along with a parallel decrease in the overall foreign investments, has resulted in China emerging as the top contributor in Pakistan’s FDI.
Chinese ambassador to Pakistan has said that his country is keen to enhance its engagement with Pakistan particularly in the field of energy, and thank the government of Pakistan as well as the ministry of energy for expediting work on power projects under CPEC.
He said during a meeting with energy minister Omar Ayub Khan, CPEC authority chairman Gen (R) Asim Saleem Bajwa, special assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on power Tabish Gohar and power secretary Ali Raza Bhutta were also present on the occasion.
The government is ready to ensure the early provision of electricity to the special economic zones (SEAZS) being set up under the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC). The envoy of initiatives taken by the present government to curb distribution and transmission losses in the power sector; the governments were striving hard to lower the cost of power generation by increasing the share of renewable energy.
Pakistan is keen to work with China on solar panel technology in the next three months. Speaking virtually at the conference on “Sustainable Development in the times of Covid-19” in Islamabad, the minister said working on science and technology, and solar energy projects like China is the top priority of the present Government.
The government of Pakistan should develop an encouraging package to attract investment in the field of solar energy in consultation with all stakeholders of the industry and implementation on such package should be implemented as joint ventures with Chinese enterprises of this field.
(The writer is President Pakistan China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry)